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The South and the Sectional Conflict


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Southern Sectionalism and 20th Century Nationalism

by FanOfTimeLifeBooks on Jan 14, 2012

David Potter's The South and the Sectional Conflict (1968) is a historiographical work which seeks to answer the following question: What is the essence of the nature of the South? Potter asserts that the South is an enigma and, for historians, a kind of sphinx on the American land. Potter also maintains that there is still no definitive formulation on the essence of southern identity and the adoption of one would paralyze the further development of the field of southern history. Potter analyzes southern sectionalism within the context of 20th century nationalism. He argues that nationalist forces in both the North and the South placed the welfare of the Union above all regional values. However, these nationalist forces were pitted against sectional forces in both regions. Viewed in this way, the conflict might be said to involve the triumph of sectionalism over American nationalism within both regions and an ensuing conflict between northern sectionalism and southern sectionalism. Put another way, the conflict between North and South can be construed as a conflict between northern (Union) nationalism and southern (Confederate) nationalism. Furthermore, by 1860, the South was forced to choose between section and nation, and chose the former. In summary, Potter approaches southern sectionalism by utilizing the 20th century concept of nationalism.

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